The ‘Flatliners’ Remake Cut a Reference to the Original Because It Was Too Confusing
The Flatliners remake is a bit of a strange animal, because no one can quite agree on who exactly it’s for. It has a cast of young stars, so it’s obviously made for today’s younger audience ... but it’s also a remake of a movie that came out in 1990 and it has a cameo from original star Kiefer Sutherland, so it’s also made for the older generation who would have remembered the movie. Speaking of Sutherland’s cameo, there was a scene in the remake that directly connected his character in the original to the new movie, but it ultimately had to be cut because some audiences were too confused.
Director Niels Arden Oplev told Collider that there was one scene he hated to cut, but it was just too difficult for the younger test audiences to make sense of. Sutherland’s character in the remake is named Dr. Barry Wolfson, but near the end of the movie, Sutherland had a speech where he essentially referenced the 1990 Flatliners and made it clear that he was actually Nelson Wright, going by a different name.
There was a scene with Kiefer [Sutherland], where he told, it was in the very end of the film, and he told this long, strange story about a famous doctor, that had death as his Godfather. And he does it super well and it like two minutes long, and Diego [Luna] and Kiersey [Clemons] and James [Norton] are sitting there, as their characters, staring at him thinking ‘what the f— is going on with him.’
And he kinda ends up saying you, ‘You can’t cheat death, and believe me, I know.’ Which… ‘Trust me, I know.’ Which was a scene that the older audience liked. Because, it was like, ‘Oh, he is, he has changed his name but he is Nelson from the old film.’ But the younger audience didn’t understand diddly-squat of that scene. They were like, ‘Why… What the hell is this guy talking about?’ So in the end, it slowed down the ending and I just decided that the younger audience, the new generation of ‘Flatliners’ is mainly who this film is for. And the older audience who can remember the old film, they would know who Kiefer’s character is, maybe. It’s ambiguous but they’ll think that he is him anyhow and then that’s where it’ll have to live. But it still is a pretty great scene.
So, ultimately, Oplev had to choose the movie’s audience. It sounds like a cool scene, but it makes sense to cut something that’s needlessly confusing to a large group of people so that your movie doesn’t get bogged down so close to the end. But then, why have Sutherland in the promotional material? Why have him in the movie at all? Maybe the scene will live on in the DVD extras, for whoever’s gonna buy this movie on DVD.